A primary function of clothing is to improve the comfort of the wearer by providing protection against the elements. Clothing provides protection from sunburn in warm weather, and protection from frostbite in cold weather. Shelter decreases the need for protective clothing. For example, coats, hats, gloves, and other superficial layers are normally removed when entering a warm home. Clothes also decrease risk during activities such as work or sport. Some clothing protects from specific environmental hazards, such as insects, harmful chemicals, weather, weapons, and contact with abrasive substances. Conversely, clothing may protect the environment from the clothing wearer, as with doctors wearing medical scrubs.
Humans have shown extreme inventiveness in devising clothing solutions to environmental hazards. Examples include: space suits, air conditioned clothing, armor, diving suits, swimsuits, bee-keeper gear, motorcycle leathers, high-visibility clothing, and other pieces of protective clothing.
Clothing also performs a range of social and cultural functions. Clothing can be used to indicate social status and convey individual, occupational, and sexual differentiation. In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. They cover parts of the body that social norms require to be covered, act as a form of adornment, and provide an expression of personal taste and style.

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Clothing has been made from a very wide variety of materials. Materials have ranged from leather and furs, to woven materials, to elaborate and exotic natural and synthetic fabrics. Not all body coverings are regarded as clothing. Articles carried rather than worn (such as purses), worn on a single part of the body and easily removed (scarves), worn purely for adornment (jewelry), or those that serve a function other than protection (eyeglasses), are normally considered accessories rather than clothing, as are footwear and hats. The distinction between clothing and protective equipment is not always clear-cut-- since clothes designed to be fashionable frequently have protective value and clothes designed for function frequently consider fashion in their design.


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